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by Chris Teale September 18, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

It can be daunting to put together a prototype and business plan for a new app, but one Clarendon-based company hopes to help make it easier.

Stuck in the Sand launched two months ago, to help those with a new idea get their thoughts in order ahead of employing developers or looking for investors.

It was founded by Wa’il Ashshowwaf, who has built four startups including rights protection app Reyets.

One of SITS’ four staff members interviews a client to learn more about their proposed product. After that conversation, SITS will draw up a business plan and start working on the prototype of an app and a home page for its website online.

Potential app customers can then view the website, sign up for email updates and run a full demo of the app from start to finish to see how the service works.

SITS provides its clients with a full business plan, a wireframe for the app to show developers how it is intended to work and a folder all the materials, including mock-ups for marketing.

Ashshowwaf said that all he and his colleagues need to start putting together prototypes is a name and an idea for an app. They can take care of the rest.

“When you have a very fresh idea, you don’t know where to start, it gives us a lot of room to take your idea and take creative license and build you something that looks good and gets your main idea across without wasting time on colors or what things should look like,” he said. “It allows you to get it out very quickly, it gives people a jump-start. It’s like if anyone’s started a diet and they need that first jump-start to get motivated, it gives them that.”

The client can then go to potential investors with their prototype, with such design intended to be less crude than an idea scribbled on a napkin in five minutes. SITS also provides analytics with website home pages, so clients can show investors a level of initial interest before major development begins.

When working with a developer, such services can cost around $20,000 and take several months, but SITS provides its services for around 10 percent of the cost — just over $2,000 — and will have a prototype ready in a matter of three days.

Those cost savings come, Ashshowwaf said, as building a landing page for a website and an app prototype can be done cheaply and quickly, especially on a fairly basic level.

“The websites you’re building, you’re building a landing page to show them the product, you’re not building a database and a store and all that,” he said. “That can be done pretty quickly if you know what you’re doing. For the app prototyping, if you know the right tools and have the right experience, even without using templates, you can build out things pretty quickly.”

In the future, Ashshowwaf said he hopes SITS will work with around 20 clients a month and expand nationwide as more and more people try and develop new apps. In time, SITS hopes to begin offering angel investments to early-stage companies and help them get off the ground.

“If we find clients where we really like their idea, we get to know them over a short period, that opens it up for us to put up an investment,” he said. “For us, rolling this out into very early stage angel investments would really be what we want, then scaling this up.”

Images via Stuck in the Sand.

by Chris Teale September 11, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A pair of Arlington County-based startups recently received injections of new cash as they continue to grow.

Crystal City software company ChurnZero and Rosslyn-based cybersecurity firm DivvyCloud both received several million dollars apiece from investors.

ChurnZero uses software to help subscription businesses understand how customers use their product, and fight against churn, when a customer decides to not use that product any longer. The company offers analytics, personalized and automated customer interfaces, and timely alerts about customers including those who are regular “power users” and those who are disengaged.

ChurnZero received $2.5 million from four investors: Grotech Ventures, Middeland Capital, Center for Innovative Technology and Charlottesville Angel Network.

“With business models moving to subscriptions, companies need to work every day to make sure their customers are engaged, happy, successful and, consequently, renewed,” You Mon Tsang, co-founder and CEO of ChurnZero, said in a statement. “We started ChurnZero because we saw way too many businesses that manage their customers without deep data or insight on the health and management level of their customers. That is simply not acceptable anymore.”

In an email, Tsang said the extra money will help ChurnZero continue to grow, having started with two founders in 2015 and already expanded to a staff of 15.

“We will invest in all parts of the business, including Product, Development, QA, Sales and Marketing,” Tsang said.  “We have big goals for the company. The investment will help ChurnZero grow into one of the major global players in the burgeoning customer success sector. We also aspire to be the next great D.C. [Software as a Service] company.”

DivvyCloud looks to make cloud servers safer by finding security problems and fixing them. It simplifies and automates cloud security for customers, who use programmed “Bots” to fix common cloud problems in real time.

It received $6 million in new funding, led by venture capital firm RTP Ventures.

“Cloud computing is a dynamic and fast-changing space and this new funding enables us to expand our reach in serving the needs of enterprises large and small struggling to manage their cloud infrastructures,” said Brian Johnson, CEO of DivvyCloud, in a statement. “With RTP Ventures’ deep experience in the SaaS space, their expertise will be invaluable as we take DivvyCloud to the next level.”

With the new investment, DivvyCloud will expand its sales and marketing operations and accelerate development of its software and services. Already, it serves the likes of General Electric, Discovery Communications and Fannie Mae, among others.

“For two years, DivvyCloud’s automation platform has been a foundational component of our enterprise cloud adoption strategy,” said Dave Duvall, Senior Vice President of Infrastructure at Discovery Communications, in a statement. “DivvyCloud helps to ensure our fast-growing cloud footprint remains secure and cost optimized while helping to integrate cloud into our existing IT operations. The speed at which DivvyCloud innovates and introduces new capabilities helps us stay ahead of problems.”

by Katherine Berko August 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Everyone has experienced waiting forever to pay their bill at a crowded restaurant. GoTab, a local startup, aims to eliminate that annoyance with its web app.

Restaurants can pay to set up GoTab to save both their servers and customers time. Customers can use their phones to view their tabs on a special webpage, with no login or app download required.

They then have the option to split their bills, add tips and pay with credit or debit cards. Payment information is secure and receipts are emailed to the customers.

Diners can also leave ratings or reviews of the restaurant if they wish.

“It saves the [customers] a bunch of time, it’s super convenient, their receipts are stored electronically…and it saves the restaurant or the bar time because [servers] don’t have to make multiple trips back and forth [to their tables],” said Paige Cantlin, president and co-founder of GoTab.

Cantlin started the company three years ago after working in finance for six years. However, she had considered creating a company like GoTab back in her college days when she waitressed tables to help pay her way through Johns Hopkins.

“That was where I learned about the restaurant industry and I wanted something like this as a person who worked in the industry,” Cantlin said. “I wanted something that would help save time and let my customers leave if they couldn’t find me when we were slammed.”

While Cantlin was getting her MBA, in 2014, she founded GoTab. A year and a half later, she met Tim McLaughlin, GoTab’s CEO and co-founder. Cantlin had known she needed somebody with technical experience to help with the app side of GoTab and McLaughlin seemed like a good fit.

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by Katherine Berko August 21, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

There is no doubt that the D.C. area is ripe with talented people. But is it innovative enough to be worthy of the title “Silicon Valley of the East,” over other tech-heavy cities like Boston and New York?

Jon Jackson, the founder of the successful local startup Mobile Posse, seems to think that’s an attainable goal for the nation’s capital.

“I want for it to be the Silicon Valley of the East,” Jackson said. “I’m not sure that it is the Silicon Valley of the East [but] I think that there are some hallmarks of the D.C. area that make it possible for us to get there.”

Jackson founded Mobile Posse in 2005. The company is a “leader in mobile content discovery solutions that help wireless carriers and device manufacturers capitalize on the mobile advertising economy.” The business has seen tremendous growth — about 70 percent per year — for the past three-and-a-half years, which is part of the reason Jackson believes D.C. is a prime location for startups.

Formerly in McLean, Mobile Posse moved to Arlington just over a year ago, where both Jackson and his cofounder live.

“There’s a great workforce here [and] the county is pretty progressive,” Jackson said.

One of the main reasons he chose to move his company was because many of the people he wanted to hire did not own cars and lived in Arlington, so they were reluctant to commute to McLean.

“We needed to get close to the Metro for recruiting purposes,” Jackson said.

During its 12 years in McLean and then in Arlington, Jackson noticed that D.C. and its surrounding areas had a great deal of potential for the tech industry. He cited D.C.’s educated workforce, its proximity to many universities, the presence of the federal government and all of the investments in the area as several reasons for that potential.

“We have more IT workers than any other city in the U.S.,” Jackson said. “Now, many of them work in the government so they’re not necessarily startup IT workers… but at least there’s the technical skills to [become a Silicon Valley here].”

Jackson mentioned that there were several factors holding the area back in the startup realm. He said that since the D.C. metropolitan area is split between two states and the District of Columbia, that makes it difficult to have one cohesive goal to bring talent and foster startups to the area.

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by Chris Teale August 14, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A Courthouse-based nonprofit has launched a new investment fund to help coastal fishers in Asia be more sustainable, raising $10 million in its first round of funding.

Non-governmental organization Rare (1310 N. Courthouse Road), which focuses on global conservation, manages The Meloy Fund, an investment fund that looks to incentivize sustainable fisheries and increase the number of fish in the sea. It will do this by investing in companies that can help fishing communities or help provide alternative employment for fishers in Indonesia and the Philippines.

The fund, unique in both Arlington and the financial industry, a spokeswoman said, projects it will improve the lives of 100,000 fishers and their families. It will also help manage 1.2 million hectares of coastal habitats, including coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves.

“The innovation of the Meloy Fund is to recognize the latent opportunity for value creation in the undervalued coastal fisheries sector, and link the resulting investments with the necessary community engagement and fisheries management provided by Rare, which ensures long-term sustainability,” said Dale Galvin, managing director of Rare’s Sustainable Markets group, in a statement.

Investors in the fund include wealthy families, investment managers and foundations, like the Walton Family Foundation, which was started by Walmart founders Sam and Helen Walton to improve the environment, education and quality of life.

“I’m thrilled to invest in the Meloy Fund, and support its innovative model for deploying investment capital to the critical problems that coastal fisheries face in moving towards sustainability,” said Lukas Walton, a foundation heir, in a statement.

The Meloy Fund expects to receive more funding in the fall, including an anticipated $6 million from the environmental consultancy firm Global Environment Facility.

Photos via Facebook.

by Katherine Berko August 7, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Kristin McCurry noticed that the traditional fundraising agency model was going out of style and after spending years in the industry, she believed she knew just how to fix it.

“I really felt like there was an opportunity to have a next generation agency and that included working differently with the partners that we have,” McCurry said.

So 12 years ago, she founded MINDset Direct, a multi-channel marketing agency. MINDset works exclusively with nonprofit organizations, such as Whitman-Walker Health, the Children’s Inn at NIH as well as more national and international organizations.

The companies MINDset works with tend to lean towards progressive causes, are children’s organizations or are veterans’ organizations. MINDset focuses on fundraising for these nonprofits.

The way MINDset differs from other alike agencies is it fosters a partnership between itself and the clients it serves, as opposed to a “we make, you take” attitude.

“This was not just fundraising with blinders on,” McCurry said. “This moved much beyond that into understanding how fundraising plays into your branding, how it plays into your marketing, how it is complimented or challenged by your organizational structure, changes in mission etc. It’s a much more comprehensive approach.”

 

As a result, MINDset has many relationships with its clients that have endured over the years. It just celebrated a 12-year anniversary with one client.

“It’s really been very confirming that the time was right for a next generation model and that we have met and exceeded the expectations of our clients,” McCurry said.

When MINDset was first created, many startups were just beginning to take form. An Arlington resident, McCurry knew she wanted her company to be based in Arlington because of the incredible talent pool located here.

“We knew that we were going to need bright, energetic people to be on staff,” McCurry said.

For the first eight years, McCurry and her staff worked out of a garage-turned-studio at her house on Jefferson Street. Then three years ago, they moved to Clarendon.

McCurry explained how since the presidential election last year, charities across the nation have undergone immense transformations. Many organizations are experiencing a “Trump bump,” which is an increase in fundraising thanks to the election. However, the bump is not limited to just conservative or liberal organizations — it encompasses the entire spectrum.

McCurry believes many people are donating to nonprofits because of their frustration with the current political situation. She said donating to a worthy cause makes people feel better about themselves, and noted that in her 30 years working in the fundraising industry, she has never seen anything like what’s been happening at charities post-election.

“Philanthropy is a reflection of someone’s personal beliefs,” McCurry said. “We see that definitely for the causes that are aligning themselves with the Trump administration or coming up against the values of the Trump administration.”

Courtesy photos. Pictured in No. 1: the MINDset Direct team of Erica O’Brien, Kristin McCurry and Candice Briddell.

by Katherine Berko July 31, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A soon-to-launch Arlington-based startup called Reyets — pronounced “rights” — is creating a mobile app that people can use when they are in a crisis or if they fear that their rights are being violated.

The company’s founder, Wa’il Ashshowwaf, created Reyets as a way for people to protect themselves in precarious situations such as when getting pulled over while driving or getting kicked off a plane. Ashshowwaf noticed that people often use their phone cameras to record these situations.

“They’re using that [camera] for accountability, to get justice,” Ashshowwaf said.

However, he felt that cameras were just one tool for getting justice and could only be used during the incident.

“You can use [Reyets] before you have an incident, during the incident and after,” Ashshowwaf said.

As soon as the Reyets app is open, the user can press the record button, and it begins to record and continues to do so, even on a locked screen. If the person’s phone is snatched, the recording will not be lost as it is saved automatically to the cloud. A recording can also be live streamed from the app.

After an incident, users can write a report about what just happened on the app, then attach the audio, video or picture evidence. That report can then be shared as a secure file with whoever the person asks for help. There is a “Get Help” section of the app, where users can reach out to local lawyers, rights organizations or media outlets.

“The reason that section is important right now is all that information is available but it’s very dispersed on the web,” Ashshowwaf explained. “You’re going to find that each outlet has a different way to contact it – it’s not really centralized.”

The app also has a section with information on people’s rights. If somebody is in a situation and they are unsure whether or not they are being treated properly, they can open the app and quickly scan their related rights.

The app has both a quick description and a longer description, so that if the user is in a rush, they can get the gist of their rights in one sentence.

There is also a community section on the app, which functions similarly to an online forum, with articles, questions and advice. People can share their experiences on the section and receive feedback on their questions, such as whether or not they should report something. Users can also share videos on the community page.

“Say there’s a protest going on — it’s all about building this community around it,” Ashshowwaf said.

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by Katherine Berko July 24, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

In today’s society, time equals money. GoMoto, an Arlington-based automotive software startup, aims to save customers time when it comes to buying and maintaining cars with its kiosk technology.

“We took the airport kiosk check-in model and applied it to the new car sales and the service lane of automotive dealerships so that consumers can have convenience, transparency and own the actual buying experience themselves,” said Todd Marcelle, the CEO and founder of GoMoto.

GoMoto currently has partnerships with Ford, Kia and Panasonic, and its kiosks can be found at hundreds of dealerships around the country.

According to Marcelle, in the United States, the average car purchase takes four hours. So GoMoto created 32-inch, large-screen kiosks to speed up the transaction process.

With these kiosks it can take as little as one hour to buy a car, since customers no longer have to sit at a desk, talk to a salesperson and answer a bunch of questions when they go into a dealership. Instead, they walk over to the kiosk and and begin their shopping. With those kiosks, customers can filter their car options based on their own personal criteria.

“It’s an engaging environment where customers have a sense of control because they can actually touch, move and navigate their shopping experience,” Marcelle said.

In turn, Marcelle said, the car dealerships using the kiosks see an 18-27 percent increase in sales.

“Consumers will typically purchase more… if [the product] is presented in a smart and intelligent way,” said Marcelle.

GoMoto also brings dealerships improved customer satisfaction ratings on maintenance visits, something Marcelle believes is imperative for the industry because satisfaction around auto service can be relatively low. Check-in for service at a kiosk takes little more than 90 seconds, while checking out takes a matter of three minutes.

Customers arrive at the dealership and, rather than wait up to 15 minutes to see a service advisor, approach a kiosk, check-in within a minute, drop off their keys and leave.

“Service is the lifeblood of our business,” said Marcelle. “When we can build solutions that create more loyal customers and increase the lifetime value of those customers, that’s where we can be successful as dealers and make more margin on new car sales.”

Marcelle created GoMoto in 2013 with one of his co-founders, Benjamin Catanese, because both of them own several car dealerships in New Jersey. It was at these dealerships where the men were identifying problems with their own customer experience.

“Instead of relying on vendors, I drew upon my experience as founder of other companies and as an investor, to build a technology platform to [fix these issues],” Marcelle said.

So, Marcelle founded GoMoto with Catanese, originally as a part-time job. Now, it’s Marcelle’s full-time profession.

At first, they worked with a few dealerships in Philadelphia, where they created popup retail centers. Customers would come into the popup centers, go up to a kiosk to compare different car models and then test-drive the cars.

However, this model was unsuccessful so GoMoto pivoted and eventually created the kiosks which they continue to use today.

Even though GoMoto initially had its success in Philadelphia, Marcelle chose to base the company out of Arlington because he liked the people in the area.

“It’s the right market for talent,” Marcelle said. “[Arlington is full of] smart, innovative, hungry people that want to push the envelope and who like the startup community.”

by Kalina Newman July 17, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

It’s no secret that the video game industry is rapidly growing and changing. Stephen Gheysens, 25, realized this when he sat down to play a new video game a few years after graduating college.

As he started to play, Gheysens realized that even a little time off from video games had left him much worse at gaming then he used to be.

“I turned to my friend and said, ‘I would literally pay for a lesson so that I could enjoy this,'” said Gheysens.

Thus, GamerTrainer — which is based in Arlington — was born. Even though eSports, the professional competitive gaming industry, is constantly expanding (it even has its own page on ESPN), there was no formal platform for one-on-one video game lessons, according to Gheysens.

“There are pro gamers out there that already give lessons but they’re very informal,” said Gheysens. “Why would you watch a YouTube video of someone playing the piano when you could take a lesson?”

GamerTrainer differentiates itself from just watching an online tutorial in that every lesson is personalized to the gamer.

“When you learn from somebody and have that direct feedback from someone that’s spent years perfecting the craft of the game, they’ll be able to see ‘Okay, you’re making this mistake, here’s how to correct it,” said Gheysens.

Anyone can take a lesson through GamerTrainer, whether they are just a beginner trying to get better for fun or a serious player wanting to sharpen and perfect their skills so that they can compete professionally through eSports.

“The market is really out there,” said Gheysens, “There’s a lot of money being pumped into eSports, and just recently a game called Overwatch launched a league of players in eight different cities.”

The GamerTrainer platform hasn’t officially launched yet but is expected to within the next couple of weeks. Lessons will take place over the popular online game streaming platform Twitch.

The person taking a lesson will have an online video chat with a trainer, and the trainer will also be able to see their game on the screen. This allows anyone to take lessons from the comfort of their own home.

Gheysens is aware that there are hundreds of video games out there and that no one can have a versed knowledge of every single game.

“We’re focusing on the top fifteen or so competitive games across PC and consoles such as Xbox One and PS4,” said Gheysens. Popular games include Overwatch, Call of Duty and the Madden NFL series.

“Train with the Best to Become the Best,” is GamerTrainer’s motto on Twitter, as the new startup makes its way through a rapidly expanding industry.

by Kalina Newman July 10, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Rize has come a long way, literally and physically. The online savings website was first picked up in 2014 as part of the Silicon Valley-based venture fund 500 Startups. Once enough money was invested, it moved across the country to a permanent home in MakeOffices in Clarendon.

Rize works as an online savings account, designed to make automatic transfers from a user’s main bank account with a higher interest rate than any other national bank. Money saved in Rize is insured up to $250,000 and there are no required monthly fees.

It went live in April after a beta testing period.

Online money management isn’t new. PayPal popularized online payments in the late 90s. Payment app Venmo was created in 2009 and has become a oft-used tool when splitting a bill with friends. Almost every major bank has their own app complete with its own budgeting options.

Rize differentiates itself from the crowd on a personal level — the startup says it truly cares about the user’s money and experience. When setting a savings goal, users can choose from the traditional, such as “Emergency Fund,” or “Vacation,” or they can create their own custom goal.

Rize’s savings interest rate is 15 times higher than the national average. While this would seem like a big cost for the startup, Amatori said a higher interest rate should be the norm across the country.

“Banks have the option to give you an interest rate larger than 1 percent, but they choose not to,” said Erica Amatori, marketing lead for Rize. “We give our customers back the money they deserve.”

Rize also appeals to customers on a personal level by giving them the option to choose whether or not they pay a monthly fee. Not only that, users can choose how much they would want to pay. It’s a win-win scenario, because it’s also how the startup earns a profit.

“We make money from our pay-as-you-want model, so at the end of the sign-up process you can pay $1, $2, $3 or nothing a month to use our product,” said Amatori. “Most of our customers do pay us something a month, usually around $2.50.”

In addition to having no maintenance fees, unlike some major banks, Rize users can make unlimited transfers and withdrawals. Most major banks limit the number of transfers users can make before they must pay a fee.

“It’s a really exciting time for us because banks are screwing up a lot, so to be on the verge of this revolution where tech is such a big thing and we know we can make it better,” said Amatori. “Banks are blindsided by it.”

So far, Rize is only available via the web, but Amatori said that a smartphone app is coming soon.

by Katherine Berko July 3, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A new startup offering free pick-ups and drop-offs in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in its electric cars has gotten quite a bit of attention just weeks after launch.

Sprynt can be downloaded for iOS and works similarly to other ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. Users enter their current location, destination and the number of passengers, then request a ride. They are then told their driver’s name and an estimated time of arrival.

“I came up with something that was a short, quick hop in between point A and point B,” said Alex Villanueva, the 26-year-old founder, about the company’s name.

Sprynt launched on June 21 and currently has four cars, with a fifth on the way. Within five days, the app had over 700 downloads.

“In order for the concept to work you need a special area where it’s densely populated and people all live, work and play within a couple of square miles,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva does not view his service as having competitors because he believes Sprynt complements the existing methods of transportation.

“It’s a too far to walk but too close to drive little niche, where you still need perhaps Uber or Lyft, or the Metro or the bus, to get anywhere else outside of our service area, ” Villanueva said.

He explained people may want to take his service if it’s a hot, cold or rainy day, if they don’t feel like walking or if they want to drink wherever they are going. Some of Sprynt’s customers are already regulars and use the service to commute.

“It’s really meant to be this gimmick-free [service],” said Villanueva. “I’ve been telling riders, ‘When I drop you off my goal is for you to feel it’s too good to be true.'”

The business is able to provide free rides thanks to its advertisers. Villanueva said that the likes of Don Tito, Tupelo Honey Café, Ten at Clarendon and Miriam’s Kitchen have already partnered with Sprynt.

“By sponsoring the service and by advertising through our advertising platforms, these companies are able to build goodwill while at the same time still promoting the products and services they were going to anyway,” Villanueva said.

There are three different ways businesses can advertise. The first option is to promote their companies on the two 12.9-inch interactive iPads placed in the cars. A restaurant might put its menu on the i-Pad or a company might include a job posting.

The iPad option is the cheapest option because people can only see the ads if they are physically inside the cars, interacting with the devices. Villanueva said he hopes to increase activity on the iPads by creating a Photo Booth feature.

“[This is a] way to make sure that the advertising is not a distraction from the rider’s experience but rather, is a part of it,” Villanueva said.

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by Katherine Berko June 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

If you’ve ever wanted to prepare a restaurant-quality meal in your own kitchen, your hunger may now be satisfied.

CookDC is a startup based out of Shirlington that delivers ready-to-cook meals to your doorstep. Its stated goal is “turning home cooks into chefs.” Examples of previous meal-kits include grass-fed flat iron steaks with smashed marble potatoes and romano beans as well as more exotic dishes such as homemade tagliatelle with wild stinging nettle pesto.

CookDC differentiates itself from similar food delivery services by prioritizing flavor over convenience and price. CookDC is not designed to be the cheapest or most efficient meal delivery option, but teaches people to cook delicious food comparable to a fancy dinner out.

“Everything is ordered a la carte so it’s not a subscription like the national chains,” said Matthew McCormack, who founded CookDC with his wife, Debbie McCormack. “You go [online and look at the menu] and if you see something you like, you buy it.”

Each meal comes with a written-up explanation of its historical background along with a description of the cooking techniques needed to prepare it.

“[The Food Network or cookbooks] are telling you how to cook it but they’re not telling you where you’re supposed to get wild morels from, [for example],” McCormack said. “They’re not handing it to you and then showing you how to use it, [like us].”

The culinary term for what CookDC does is “mise en place,” French for “put in place.” Professional kitchens spend all day prepping their ingredients and once their restaurant opens, all the chefs do is cook the food.

“As soon as a restaurant service starts, nobody is cutting a carrot,” McCormack said. “We’re giving you the ‘mise en place,’ giving you very clear instructions on how to finish that dish yourself. It’s prepped, it’s packaged.”

Customers do have the option of paying extra to get the meal fully prepared, or they can specify that they do not want to cook it that night. They can also double the portion or request kids’ servings.

Meals are delivered throughout the D.C. region between 2-5 p.m. The night before delivery, customers are told whether or not they need a certain pan for the meal or if they will have to fire up their grill in order to cook it. On the day of delivery, customers are texted when the meal-kit has left CookDC’s kitchen. Meals are delivered in coolers and are packaged in step-by-step compartments. Each meal usually has between three to seven steps.

(more…)

by Chris Teale June 19, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A software startup received a $35,000 grant at Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting after relocating to Crystal City last year.

Stardog is one of two companies to receive a Gazelle Grant, an incentive program from Arlington Economic Development for fast-growing companies to locate in the county.

The other company to receive a grant so far, Videoblocks, announced it would move to Courthouse last month. It will receive $110,000.

Stardog moved to 1400 Crystal Drive in September, having launched in 2005 in the Shaw neighborhood of D.C. CEO Kendall Clark said the company helps businesses bring together internal data from various different sources.

Clark said that while that process could take a large company like Samsung a week and use 30 people to collate all the data on, for example, the purchases of a certain dishwasher in the corridor between D.C. and New York, Stardog’s technology does the job in a matter of seconds.

Stardog already serves the likes of NASA, Oxford University Press and Bosch.

“We’re lucky to have found a bunch of really big customers who have this problem and we solve it well,” Clark said. “It’s not an area that anyone else is really focusing on in our software, so it’s a good combination of need and the software business that we’re looking at, which is a good combination if you can find it.”

Clark said Stardog chose Arlington after its landlord in Shaw tripled the rent, but he said the new Crystal City location has many benefits for employees. With software developers based as far afield as Hawaii and Moscow, Clark said the close proximity to National Airport and Metro helps staff get around easily, while the places where people can eat and live are numerous.

In addition, Clark said, Stardog found Arlington to be a much easier place to do business in as a startup.

“All the business license and low level paperwork that doesn’t really get you any advantage to being in a place — but if you don’t do it it’s bad — it’s lots of stuff like that in Arlington that you can do online,” he said. “In the District, I found for whatever reason there was always some reason I or somebody else had to go to an office in Southeast, struggle with parking and the whole nightmare and then go in and you’re there all day.”

Under the terms of the grant, Stardog must create 70 new full-time jobs at its Arlington office and lease 3,500 square feet of office space. If, by the end of 2019, it has not hit 90 percent of its space target and 50 percent of its employment target, it will have to pay back some or all of the grant.

A staff report that recommended approving the grant said Stardog will use the grant to help build out its new office, relocate its operations and recruit and train new employees.

Clark said the company plans to triple its revenue from last year, and is “on track” right now to do just that. That new revenue will lead to more full-time employees, which will lead to “more people buying houses,” Clark said.

by Brooke Giles June 12, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A new app has been designed to help busy Arlington moms organize their social calendars.

On MamaLeave, local moms can find playgroups and activities in their neighborhoods. Instead of traditional playgroups with set days, the app takes advantage of mobile technology to make the experience more spontaneous.

The woman behind the app is Laurie Cordova, a product development professional based in Arlington. The mother of two said that as a working mom, both from at home and in the office, she often needed to make plans quickly.

She also recognized that some moms have evolving availability. They might find it difficult to join an established playgroup, or they might not want to commit to a group because they know their schedule will change.

“The goal is to create flexibility for moms, if they’re home during the day or if they’re just available on weekends or night time,” said Cordova. “I think it appeals to moms no matter what their situation is.”

MamaLeave connects through Facebook, where moms can fill out a profile and connect automatically to moms in their zip code who also have the app installed. Moms can join the events — known as “Mama Leaves” — that interest them, or they can create their own event. If a family lives close to another zip code, they can also be linked to “Mama Leaves” in those neighborhoods as well.

The other goal of the app is to bring communities together in a way that is accessible in modern society. In a world where outside play is less common and many are wary of strangers, Cordova said MamaLeave helps get neighbors talking.

“Everyone is glued to a device, they’re used to meeting people through a device,” Cordova said. “People don’t approach people to make friends or to meet their neighbors in the same way.”

The app is live now but Cordova calls this is the “beta” period. She is focused on building the app in Arlington and within her own network.

“The most important thing for me right now is to see how people use it and what they think of it,” Cordova said.

MamaLeave is available for both Android and iPhone.

by Brooke Giles June 5, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Local students could soon be using Foresight Guided Path to Success to help them reach their career goals.

In his full-time job as an engineer, Jody Mitchell is often faced with using teamwork to problem solve. This led the Arlington resident to develop ForeSight, a web application made up social, visual and analytic components.

His own experience is what inspired him to incorporate education. Mitchell says when he was in high school he knew he wanted to work in engineering but didn’t know all that it took to get there.

“I didn’t have a goal to get into college, I didn’t have a plan I was working toward and I didn’t have that support team in my corner, guiding down the right path to get to where I wanted to be.”

ForeSight applications are made to help students develop their goals. With an account, students can select the college of their choice and prospective major, then they outline what grades and standardized test scores they need to get into the school. Parents, school guidance counselors and mentors receive updates when the student is straying off course.

As more students use Foresight GPS school officials can not only have a system tracking student success, but it can also provide information about the school itself.

“You have that data, you’re able to understand what constitutes as improvement and what doesn’t. Maybe it’s a difference in study plans one teacher has that another teacher doesn’t,” said Mitchell.

The historic data is also beneficial to students who are interested in going to schools that their older peers have gotten into. Access to data from previous students also allows for students to have realistic data to inform their decisions.

Magruder High School in Rockville and National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Md. both currently use ForeSight GPS. Meanwhile, Baton Rouge Community College in Baton Rouge, La. uses Foresight Guide Path to Employment, for students with cognitive learning disabilities. It focuses on helping students gain independent learning skills.

Mitchell says the next move for his company is to get funding, so he and his business partner can start working on ForeSight full time. He’s applied to the incubator program at Halcyon in D.C., and the Center for Innovative Technology’s GAP fund program. He plans to apply for the Capital Factory Accelerator in Austin, Texas.

With funding, Mitchell wants to start a marketing campaign for ForeSight to help it take off in the D.C. area. There are hopes to expand further in Louisiana, where Mitchell is originally from. Once Foresight builds out across the U.S., he wants to go into the international market.

“It drives you down along that path and as soon as you get off track it will re-vector you back on track. That’s where we see Foresight GPS in the future,” said Mitchell.

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